Thursday, September 1, 2011

Summer School

Lian and I have been doing "summer school" lessons all summer long. There is no doubt that he needs to work on reading and writing and his homeroom teacher suggested that he would do better next year if he had his multiplication facts memorized. As during the regular school year, summer lessons were a super frustration. On top of not wanting to deal with the wall of writing each lesson seems to be, he also wanted to be outside or doing one of the many activities he was blogging about this summer. I persevered. He got weekends off and holidays and any day where we as a family could be enjoying summer outside the house. The lessons were less than onerous. I certainly wasn't about about to spend all summer locked in a learning battle. 

Reluctantly he has pushed through with whines and fusses. As far as he was concerned nothing has changed. It's all really hard. It takes too long. And when is he going to get a real summer vacation? I wish I could make him see it from my point of view. It's true his outward behavior is unchanged toward the books he was reading at the beginning of summer and the books he is reading at the end. However, the books at the beginning were specifically chosen well below grade level to give him practice at practicing reading and the books he is reading now are much closer to what he will encounter once third grade starts. Somewhere in the middle of summer we went from switching off reading every other page to each other, to him forgetting to stop reading so I could read my part, to him taking the book away from me and reading it all on his own. Whining about how hard it is, the whole time, I might add.  

We had an agreement at the beginning of summer that if he finished one book over the summer on his own, then I would read the rest of his reading list to him. It's the best part of our day. We have enjoyed many books together over the summer. A funny thing happened along the way though. He started getting impatient for our reading time together. For the first time ever in his young life, what happens next was more important that how hard it was to figure out the words. He picked up the books and began to read ahead. 

From what I can see, he is sounding out fewer words, his comprehension is up and he is reading harder material. Even though he still hasn't quite caught up, I would say being a "slave driver" over the summer has paid off. That became even more clear when he answered a multiplication question in a tv commercial the other day. He had the audacity to look at me with his innocent, not at all humble, smile and say, "Yeah, I learned that from copying my math facts, Cool Huh?" I should be grateful it won't occur to him until he has third graders of his own, that that is exactly why he has been "laboriously" copying math facts all summer long. Oh and copying things over is a great way to practice, oh, I don't know, writing!

I am so glad summer is coming to an end. Once school starts and we have a lesson plan in front of us, I can once again use the phrase, "Because your teacher said so!!", life will be so much easier. As I see it now, spelling is going to be his main challenge for this year. I have to give him credit for the way he sounds out what he writes (at least he's writing yeah?). Something tells me it's going to be a long year. Totally worth the effort, but really long.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

This is not what I signed up for!

My son has a myriad of social and sensory issues that make life difficult for him.

Of all of them, I hate dyslexia the most. I watched my mother's heart break when she was told that at the age eight her son couldn't read. I watched as she dragged out my kindergarten homework, lovingly saved through the years, and used it to write a series of phonically based stories. I watched as she did what teachers over four grades had failed to do, teach my brother how to decipher the alphabet soup he saw and learn to read.  I don't blame the teachers for failing, from personal experience, I know it's difficult to teach around dyslexia. I blame them for advancing him to the next grade when it was obvious he wasn't ready.  I wasn't prepared when my son's school did the same to him in kindergarten. 

Taking a page out of Mom's book I took my son's education into my own hands and found him a school that would help him work through his issues. We enrolled him into a, thankfully free (though we would have paid millions), national online charter school, Connections Academy. There we found teachers with great advice. A curriculum not too different from the one he used in public school and motivation in the form of clubs and electives to encourage him to want to learn after the wars of kindergarten made him no longer willing to even try. He had the flexibility to excel in the areas he could and still take extra time for the lessons he needed extra help in. Finally, after beating my head against a wall for more than a year I had teachers who not only listened, but had the ability to act on my concerns. Let me be straight up here. My son's kindergarten teacher was a gem. She did the best she could with him and the restrictions her direct supervisors and school admin put on her. My issue with "them" is a story for another time.

After two years at CA we are making headway. He is still below grade level in reading and especially writing. His math skills are amazing, in his head. The moment he has to work through a problem on paper from beginning to end he forgets everything he knows about math. The numbers and concepts he knows so intimately in his head are a jumble to his eyes.  I know he has an uphill struggle but he is climbing far more often than he is sliding these days. Being his learning coach is not easy and gives me a profound appreciation for the people who choose to teach as a profession. It has caused gray hairs and anxiety attacks, there have even been tears, he cries sometimes too. We push on because I have seen what else is out there and I, like my mom before me, am my son's best advocate. He wants to learn everything there is to know. It's my job to help him find the tools to do so.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adventures In Geography

ETA: We are up to more than 70 countries on 6 continents
He only needs page views from Antarctica to have views from all 7 Continents.
 Go my Little Man!

If you have been by twitter feed, my Facebook or blog posts lately, then you know that for his summer project my son is writing a blog chronicling all the fun he is having this summer. I love it because it is keeping him busy. He takes most of the pictures that he isn't in and comes up with the ideas for the posts. He is making videos every single day. He had well over 500 page views in just the first month and he is incredibly happy over that. What really has him excited is that he can track where his page hits are coming from.  Already he has regularly gets hits from Germany and Malaysia. He has also gotten hits from India, Brazil, Ireland, Canada and Russia. He would love to see his blog map light up green. I am inviting everyone outside the US to stop by. (Americans are absolutely welcome!) I am not asking for comments (though he would love to hear how other almost 8 y/o's are spending their summers) or for people to follow him (unless of course they want to) but please to just click in and give him a view.  He also doesn't have any ads on his pages. Thanks for stopping by

Monday, February 14, 2011

"That's Wonderful"

You know how some people would rather be the dead guy at a funeral rather than the one giving the eulogy? That's me. I hate standing up in front of a group of people and talking. 

Even worse is talking about myself.

Today was the first day of a new semester and wouldn't you know it? I had to do exactly that. "Why?"I ask. My life is boring. I don't do anything exciting. My life is school with my son and my own classes. What would a CIS class full of college age people find interesting about my life? We all are attending college classes, so that just leaves my son. College kids that I know are never big on the Mommy Brag stories.

"Hi, my name is Shelle. This is my first year back at college in twenty odd years. I spend my days virtual schooling my son and working on homework, his and mine."

 "Really? That's wonderful!" enthuses my new professor. 

He then proceeds to ask me a billion questions and has to comment on every answer. All the while I am still standing in front of 40 people, trying not to show them what I had for dinner.

Recently in my favorite online forum there was a rather vocal discussion about whether or not schooling at home is, a new parenting fad or an educational trend. One of the major sticking points was acceptance into college.  It occurred to me as I was up there sweating profusely, that this wasn't the first time a college professor was excited to learn that my child was schooled at home. In fact every teacher I have had at this level, eight since September, has been excited and supportive of my decision to do this with my child. 

I would imagine the fact I am in school myself says something about the level of commitment I have to education and that may color their perception, but it does make me wonder why there is such a disparity between the general belief that kids schooled at home won't be accepted into college because of their lack of education, and college professors/teachers being excited that these kids are getting great educations.
I also have to wonder what it says about me, that I get through this seriously uncomfortable moment by thinking about what people online would have to say about it. 

 I didn't die! I swear it would have been easier!  

 So, how was your day?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How addicted do you have to be?



So, on my way back to my computer after a pit stop, I glanced into the living room to find hubby on the PS3 playing a baseball game AND on his laptop playing a computer game. It's not a huge big deal that he is doing this. It's after the boy's bedtime, on a weekend and it's not like he has to be up in the morning but I couldn't resist, so I asked him, 'How addicted to video games do you have to be, that playing one a time doesn't cut it?" I giggled and wandered back to my computer. Smug in my superiorosity.

So, I get back on the computer and I hear a snicker. I hadn't heard him follow me back to my room.  "I knew it! So, how addicted to your computer do you have to be to have two browsers open with multiple tabs at the same time? And, do I see more than one program open?"

Doh! Totally busted!

I had one browser open to Lian's school, putting together a lesson plan and the other open to my personal email account so I could catch up on some correspondence.  It's not an uncommon occurrence when I have a lot to get done. It doesn't take much effort to switch back and forth. I have to admit though, it could be a sure fire sign of addiction and more likely the desperate need to get a life. 

 So how is your weekend going?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

KMART should not be a scary place to shop

You just never know!

We were at Kmart this week. We were walking kind of stretched out with hubby a few aisles ahead and Lian  dragging his feet behind getting distracted by the toy section. I knew where he was but I let him wander a bit, calling him a few times to come to me. Standing near the end of the section was this guy. I noticed him in passing and didn't really give him a second thought, at the time. I waited for the boy to catch up with me and we caught up with dad. All the while Lian was complaining because he couldn't find the $5 iron man toys. Hubby wanted to look at posters, (I don't know why, we haven't bought a poster in twenty years), so I finally gave in and let Lian go back to the Iron Man section. He took off and I let hubby know we were going.  I turned the corner into the aisle a few steps behind him and see that guy  coming to a stop just at the Iron Man section.  He looked up at me then kept walking out of the aisle to stand by the end cap facing away from it. Passing strange. 

We found the elusive toys, which were $7 now and walked back to dad. Meanwhile this guy is still just standing there not really looking at anything. Though according to hubby, later, he kept glancing at us as we walked away.

So I tell Morgan this guy is creeping me out, the way he just appeared there where my son said he wanted to go. We hadn't passed him again on the way back to the toys, so he had to have come from the other end of the aisles. I kept the boy close as we moved on to the food section and just let him worry over the creepy guy. That is his job.

We shopped some more and then the boy asked if he could go get cheese crackers.  I left him with his dad discussing soup flavors and went two aisles overs to get the crackers and guess who is right next to the exact brand we were talking about. He turned and walked out of the aisle and back in the direction I had just come from. So now I was really freaked out.

I got back to the cart and hubby was showing some serious signs of stress. He motioned for me to take hold of the kid and then took off around the corner. He was back in just a moment. Apparently this guy had turned to come down the aisle where they were, then stopped, backed out and continued down the action aisle. By the time hubby went after him he had disappeared again.

I can think of a hundred legit reasons why this could happened. Yes it was strange that I never saw him actually looking at or holding merchandise. He could have just been killing time while his wife was shopping and he just didn't like hanging around others and we just kept getting in his way. He didn't have to be a child predator who noticed a child unaware of his surroundings and parents who seemed distracted by shopping.  We still mentioned it to the customer service desk. They said they would keep an eye out for him.

 What scares me is that Lian never noticed him. Never even knew he was there, had no idea who we were talking about. He passed him twice and shared an aisle with him twice and he never realized there was anybody else there. A long time ago I wrote a post about when he unlocked our deadbolt and actually left the safety of our apartment to go be with an interesting stranger he saw in our courtyard. He has come a long way from the toddler who would wander off with anyone who smiled at him. Still, with his social delays he is far too trusting when someone shows him attention. 

I realized that in those few moments a predator would have been able to glean his name, maybe ours as well, his interests and his favorite snack. Would my son, unaware of his presence in the first place, be savvy enough to protect himself against a stranger who "knew" so many little things you don't expect a stranger to know? It takes just a moment of hesitation to change a life forever.

Whether or not this guy was actually doing anything sinister, it was a great opportunity for a teaching moment. We were able to show Lian how his pushing at the rules we lay down for him, can put him in danger and that mom and dad are NOT the enemy for having so many rules. I know as he gets older he is wanting more freedom from his mom's constant hovering. Especially when he sees other kids his age being so independent. He says he understands it's to keep him safe from a danger he isn't even aware of. I can only hope he believes it. I do want to give him kudos for responding to the possible-threat codeword I gave him and sticking close by until he got the all clear. He handled it well even though he never saw anything that seemed threatening to him.

I get the all over chills thinking what could have happened if I had let those apron strings out just bit more. 

Monday, January 10, 2011


I have known hubby's birthday was coming for a whole year now, as it does every year right about now. One could argue I have known about it for the last eighteen years even.

As always I am caught a day late or a dollar short. In this case, the dollar. A check I have been waiting on since the fifteenth of last month still hasn't arrived. With the usual bills I couldn't even scrounge the change to buy a cake mix. Hubby is, of course, fine with it. We had agreed to wait until the  money gets here and do a cake and  his favorite dinner, later. We did not take our son into consideration. He also has been waiting since last year for this day. He has a list of all the holidays tucked away in his brain. Daddy's birthday is the second holiday of the year. It is immutable. The child had been waiting for mom to coordinate, to tell him what to make for decorations. Even the rule that there were to be no presents wasn't going to fly with him.  It is a birthday, there must be a present. He would wait for mom no more, time had run out. It was time to make a party.

So, I spent my day improvising.

Some things were easy. Construction paper makes great party hats and even a spiffy birthday card. Other things were a little more difficult. A cake is almost impossible to fake. I had about half of the ingredients on any from-scratch recipe I could find. I gave a thought to making cookies. I was still missing a few ingredients. The present presented another problem altogether. Usually in a pinch the boy can be counted to on to come up with an art masterpiece. Not today. "I always give him a picture, he doesn't need another one." Raspberries!!!

 A call from MIL got DH out of the house for a few hours. I set the boy to making party hats decorated with left over Christmas bows and other assorted craft supplies. Then I started on cookies. I had only margarine and no shortening, no vanilla, no baking soda, baking powder or cream of tarter. All ingredients the various recipes I found called for. I also only had brown sugar.  I did however have half a bag of stale chocolate chips, some marshmallows left over from Halloween (yikes!) and an envelope of powdered hot cocoa.  I threw it all in the bowl and hoped for the best. As I was hunting for a cookie sheet it occurred to me that one big cookie would look great with a candle on it. I dumped the whole thing in a cake round. (Note to self: It takes longer than the recommended 10 minutes, to cook a cake round size cookie) As I was putting the 'cake' in the oven the boy decided to remind me that dad still needs a gift. 

What to do? A mixed tape... er CD... umm playlist? I am so old!

I decided to fall back on the old second grade standby; a pencil holder. What dad couldn't use a colorful cup to store his flash drives in? I consolidated the Parmesan and Romano cheeses, scrubbed the empty container with clorox and prayed the left over noxious cheese fumes wouldn't melt the pencil erasers. I found some old wrapping paper scraps in the craft bin, a large paint brush and our dying jar of mod podge, perfect for a quickie paper mache covering.  I showed the boy how to glue the paper strips one at a time. I then remembered that I had a cookie/cake in the oven and it had been way more than ten minutes. 

I saw the cookie was still a bubbling goop and then I hear the bathroom door slam open and the water turn on. I had forgotten that the slightest bit of glue on the hands of the boy would, of course, herald a melt down of huge porportions. After getting him cleaned up and calmed down, we managed to get the pencil holder finished. He painted the glue and I stuck the strips (and got the icky feeling stuff on my fingers instead) while he oohed and ahhed over the cool patterns and colors that emerged as we added each layer. 

Finally, I smelled the delicious fragrance that announces more clearly than any timer ever could that the cake was done. I had to find a stand to hold the gluey mess that would eventually become a cool desk accessory. I had visions of it sticking permanently to whatever surface I set it on to dry. I frantically found a  tall thin flash light to act as holder. I pulled the cake out of the oven moments before it became statistic.  I popped it onto a plate, inhaled it's aroma and mentally patted myself on the back for quick thinking.  Then I proceeded to clean the gluey mess from our art project. It was during the housekeeping efforts that I became aware of the silence that, all parents know, means some rule somewhere is being broken. The boy came around the corner with a slightly guilty look in his eyes and chocolate on his face. 

"what 'cha up to?"


Yeah right!

There was a child size hole in the center of my cake and the edge on one side was eroded. Hmmm?

"Mom, you were worried how it would taste, so I wanted to make sure it was good." 

"Okay, and you had to eat all of that to taste it?"

"It was really good."
 I had party hats that would fit only on the heads of leprechauns. I had a gluey pasty mess that once dry would be quite pretty but dry was a long way off.  I had a birthday cake with a hole in it and I had a birthday Honey due in the door at any moment.  (Did I mention day was filled with the usual Monday school stress and that I also cooked dinner while all this was going on?)  I could have had a melt down of my own, but flattery impresses and I was grateful to know it tasted as good as it smelled. I still had a cake to cover up and no frosting ingredients to do it with.

I improvised... Again!  I had just a dollop of Dove's dark chocolate ice cream sauce left over from a gift basket from MIL. 45 seconds in the micro and voila, chocolate glaze. 

All in all, it turned out great. Hubby celebrated another anniversary of his eighteenth birthday, all the while holding the party hat on his head. The cookie cake rocked my diet to its core. I have to try remember what I actually used as a recipe because it was perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside and super rich. Hubby loved his pencil holder, once he figured out what it was. He politely ignored the semi dried rivulets of glue that had yet to turn clear. Tomorrow it will be gorgeous. He was only a little disappointed to not get his annual Lian Nathaniel original artwork. 

So how was your day?


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